Philadelphia Union at Chicago Fire
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.; Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.
TV: NBC Sports Network with play-by-play man Arlo White and color analyst Kyle Martino; Radio: None.
Online: Watch the stream via MLS Live.
Referees: Armando Villarreal (main), George Gansner, Matthew Kreitzer, Baldomero Toledo (fourth)
The next week promises to be a daunting challenge.
Beginning Saturday, the Philadelphia Union play three matches in seven days. It starts Saturday at Chicago and continues with home matches against the defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy Wednesday with a return visit from Chicago on May 18.
It’s far from easy, but this is where a club’s depth can pay huge dividends.
As the Union (3-3-3, 12 points) prepare to play the Fire (2-5-1, seven points), they’ll be without defenders Jeff Parke (hamstring) and Sheanon Williams (red card).
“We know we’re going to get Sheanon back, it’s only one game,” centerback Amobi Okugo said. “With Parke’s injury, we don’t know how long he’s going to be out, so people are going to have to step up, myself included, our whole backline.”
Manager John Hackworth has referenced his club’s depth all season.
Now, these players will get a chance.
“(Bakary Soumare) has looked good in training, Gabe Farfan always looks good and has been very consistent for us,” Hackworth said. “Kleberson and Sebastien (Le Toux) -- Sebastien has looked particularly good in finishing this week. Antoine (Hoppenot) constantly tries to push himself as someone who doesn’t just come off the bench. The competition has been really good there. Guys can sense there’s a little bit of an opportunity and that turns up the intensity and reality that they might have a shot.”
Last season, forward Jack McInerney was given an opportunity and he seized the situation.
The same thing could happen, especially with three matches looming in one week.
“Jack McInerney got a chance last year to come in and be a starter,” Hackworth said. “He was ready for that opportunity and he took that opportunity. He hasn’t relinquished that role since then. Anytime a professional player, who works so hard in training, has a chance to represent himself as a starting player, it’s fantastic. In my experience, things can change once players get these chances.”
Over the last three seasons, the Union and Fire have split their meetings, going 3-3-1 with each club scoring nine goals.
Following a 2-2 draw against Seattle, a match in which the Union believed they should have won, it’s time to head back out on the road. They’ve had success on the road with wins at Colorado and D.C. United and a draw at Columbus.
“It’s offensively, defensively, set pieces, every aspect of the game that we have to focus, concentrate and be consistent,” said midfielder and captain Brian Carroll. “Whether we’re home or away, we have to play our game, stick to what we do best, be aggressive and be consistent. I think we’ve shown the ability to do that. We’ll likely have some roster tweaks and we have the depth to do it. I think we’ll be fine if we do what we do best and work at it for 90 minutes.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com